BENGALURU: The lack of special courts for trying offences against children and the inevitable delay in bring these cases to trial is hampering all efforts to seek justice for minors.
Cases being tried under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, are now facing a plethora of problems, the most serious of them being the long time it takes for these cases to come to trial.
The Act specifies that special courts should be set up for trying these cases and the trial should be completed within the year, but in the true tradition of any other case, even POCSO cases are coming to trial in a leisurely manner.
This has affected the nature of the evidence being provided by the children against the offender. In cases involving harassment, molestation and attempt to rape, the evidence given by the children holds prime importance.
In the intervening months that it takes to get the children to court, several factors influence the children, making them reluctant to testify.
A trial being held at present at a sessions court has several children from a school, who had complained of molestation against their teacher in 2014.
“Out of the 10 children, who were supposed to testify, four did not turn up and another four testified that the teacher wasn’t even coming to school, so there was no chance of him molesting them,” a child rights’ activist said.
The pressure to change their testimony does not necessarily come from the offender. In most cases, the culprits are the parents, who do not want their children to come to court. “For them it is social stigma, the fear of offending the school, the hesitation in dealing with police and legal authorities and having the children being seen in open court. They usually convince their children to change statements,” the activist said.
While POCSO specifies guidelines for audio and video recording of statements, procedures are not being followed. The police are swift in recording complaints, but rarely involve the original counsellors, who are the complainants in many cases as many such complaints are received on the helpline.
“It takes us a long time to get these children to confide in us, but soon after the complaint is registered, the police do not keep us in the loop or work with us. Suddenly these children are told to come to court to testify after several months. They are unprepared and find the process of giving evidence quite daunting. Cases are falling apart because of this. This is the third instance I am seeing, where the child is changing the testimony or simply cannot recall the exact sequence of events,” another activist bemoaned.
Kripa Alva, chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said she has written to the High Court Registrar in this regard.